Understanding Recovery Time Objective (RTO) In DR Planning

Setting your recovery time objectives is crucial, especially when network hacks and ransomware attacks are on the rise. You never know when you are the next victim. At this juncture, if your Recovery Time Objective is not defined, how would you come up with a data backup and recovery plan?

This post will walk you through the basics of RTO and the factors to keep in mind while setting your RTO.

What is Recovery Time Objective (RTO)

To simply put, the Recovery Time Objective (RTO) is the maximum acceptable time your business applications can be down. After all, how long can your business afford to be down? RTO is the maximum tolerable outage that your organization can endure without causing significant damage to a business. Defining RTO times is crucial for the success of your business continuity because based on the metrics you can recover your lost data. The objective also dictates how far your IT team must go to retrieve a backup.

Importance of Recovery Time Objective

The RTO is of paramount importance when it comes to prioritizing the applications and processes while backing up data to achieve the desired RTO goal. In other words, you must have realistic RTO targets set that can help you resume your operations back to normal in a timely manner.

Since RTO is the targeted duration time wherein applications, systems, and/or processes survive a downtime, you must adapt your DR plan based on the nature of your business. Hence, it’s crucial to determine how fast your IT teams can recover before the disruption begins. In the data protection plan and disaster recovery strategy, RTO tends to answers these questions:

  • What is the target time established for services restoration after a service disruption notification?
  • What’s the real-time duration to recover a site from the time the incident interrupts the normal flow of operations?
  • What is the acceptable level of risk of data loss, when the system or key applications goes offline?

Needless to say, that the RTO metric sets the target expectation for the IT team in advance. But, defining this metric based on how long that process is interrupted is not enough. In order to restore the system, the first step is to plan your recovery strategy to get the service operational again before it causes serious impacts. So, how do you actually set and assign RTOs? Read on to explore more.

How to Calculate the Recovery Time Objective for Disaster Recovery Planning?

To calculate RTO, you must consider the losses associated with an interruption in the (BCP) Business Continuity Plan. RTO along with business impact analysis embraces short-term or long-term effects due to business interruption of services. Consequences of disruption typically include lost revenue, customer-facing applications, mission-critical applications, and less-priority applications that are affected or will become unavailable.

To work out an RTO, you might need multiple RTO categories (or timeframe) breakdowns. Because, certain outages might not need a longer recovery time, while some might require long-term recovery. For example, for less mission-critical applications (not used frequently) the RTO might be much longer. However, for critical applications that are of the highest priority, you must set the RTO value for short intervals.

Factors for Determining RTO

You should always set RTO based on the times when the application or security system is in operation and when you determine the speed of recovery during long interval backup. Notably, RTO is a calculation of risks involved when the business struggles with service interruption. Since RTO is “time-sensitive” for frequently used applications, you must take into account these factors for RTO calculation:

  • Cost/benefit equation for recovery solutions
  • Priority applications of individual systems and data
  • Steps taken by the IT departments to restore the IT infrastructure
  • Outage and mitigation cost
  • The complexity of the recovery procedure

RTO Sample Intervals

The measurement of RTO is a time of survival after the damage has been identified. Achieving a near-zero RTO is costly for most IT enterprises. But, it’s possible to achieve if you are prioritizing applications and data. For less business-critical applications, the RTO clock might consume longer objective times than usual. Near-zero RTO plans for mission-critical applications might require you to consider immediate failover capability. Based on the severity of the outage, you can set the achievable target RTO time for data recovery. However, the RTOs restoration time also depends on the limitations of the IT organization. For example, if restoring all the IT functions & operations takes 3 hours, the RTO must be at least 3 hours.

Note: From the disaster recovery (DR) perspective, the RTO clock starts right when the recovery process starts. As you calculate RTO (Recovery Time Objective) for your business units, consider RTO category (or timeframe) breakdown similar to this:

1 Hour: This interval is for redundant data backup on external hard drives.

5 Days: In this case, the most cost-effective solution would be backing up data using compact disk, tape, or offsite disk storage.

Recovery Time Objective Examples

Since the RTO defines how much time is needed to get the workload back online, the potential revenue impact could be huge. So, you must aim to attain the lowest possible RTO to minimize the impact of a disaster. In fact, RTO is an exercise to prioritize your applications. To determine RTO values, firstly, identify the impact of the length of time on your business in which the data is unavailable. Second, you must decide at what point the interruption can cause a serious impact on your business. Third, you must calculate how much data you need to recover in the first 24 hours. Keeping this in mind, you can set the estimated RTO as:

  • 10% of data must be available within 24 hours
  • After a complete loss of the database, 50% of data must be available within 2 days.
  • The remaining 50% of data must be available within the next 5 days.

While setting the time to recovery objective, there’s no one-size-fit solution for a business continuity plan. You must set the RTOs as a point-in-time in the future to recover data after the disaster strikes.

However, should an incident occur, you must employ certain tools and technology that provide data recovery. This can help you to measure RTO even before the outage has begun. This includes the time taken to repair the servers, installing priority applications, and restore data. Besides, you must take into account the methods of recovery and the backed-up data that needs to be recovered.

RTO, the Zmanda Way

Indeed, RTO time is a critical parameter and the foundation of your recovery plan. But, given the outages and their circumstances, sometimes it’s challenging to meet an attainable recovery and achieve business continuity. In this case, how do you determine the right steps of reaching your recovery goals? This is where we can help.

Achieve Continuous Availability

With Zmanda’s DRaaS plan, no matter the size of your business, we can help you shorten outage times significantly while recovering data before your business is at risk. Also, we can help you to avoid the pain of downtime depending on your business needs.  Our disaster recovery and backup solution combine Amazon Glacier with a 20x lower-cost of long-term data archival that deploys a robust high availability that ensures business continuity.

Our enterprise backup solution unifies backup, disaster recovery, and long-term storage archiving specifically tailored to clients’ needs. Zmanda’s AWS Deep Archive solution equips you with more storage capacity of workloads that provide security, reliability, scalability, and availability while recovering your environment even at times of total server failure event.

Zmanda’s secure client gateway access support Secure Socket Layers (SSL) and layered security enabling you to move your data to a backup site in seconds without worrying about TTL-related delays. In addition, to provide enhanced data protection, the SSL certificates establish a secure connection to allow communication between remote clients and the cloud gateways. Besides, Zmanda customers can meet stringent RTO requirements with a streamlined approach to recovery and restoration using multiple RTO/RPO options based on the applications that you prioritize.

Need help with determining RTO to protect your business from disaster? Visit our DR solutions page to learn more or contact us to speak with one of our experts!